Shortly after his return to Russia, the Kremlin critic was arrested and sentenced to prison. Now he is to be brought to trial in another case. It’s about a Twitter video.
The imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny is threatened with another trial after his return to Russia: The opposition member is due to be tried on Wednesday for defaming a World War II veteran. According to his lawyer Vadim Kobsew, it was still open whether Navalny could appear before the judges at all because of the usual 14-day corona quarantine after his entry from Germany. Meanwhile, the Kremlin described Navalny’s calls to protest as “worrying”.
Navalny was arrested in Moscow on Sunday immediately after his return from Germany. In Berlin he had been treated in Siberia after a poison attack in August. In a hastily arranged hearing at a police station on Monday, a court sentenced Navalny to 30 days’ imprisonment for violating probation requirements from 2014.
Proceedings suspended for poison attack
The pending proceedings for defamation had already started in July last year. However, it was suspended after the poison attack on Navalny. The judiciary accuses the 44-year-old of “untrue” and “insulting” statements about a World War II veteran. This had spoken out in a video for the constitutional referendum of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny had published the video on Twitter and called the veteran and other actors a “shame for the country”, “people without a conscience” and “traitors”. The veteran who reported the Kremlin critic will not appear in person in court, according to Nawalny’s lawyer. If convicted, Navalny faces a fine of up to five million rubles (56,000 euros) and up to five years in prison.
Another court hearing in early February
On February 2, Navalny expects another important court date: Then the judiciary is examining the suspension of his prison sentence ordered in 2014. In the event of a defeat, Navalny may have to serve part of the three and a half year prison sentence.
The Kremlin critic was taken to Matrosskaya Tishina prison in Moscow on Monday evening. The prison gained notoriety because several prisoners had already died there on remand, including the lawyer Sergej Magnitsky at the end of 2009.
Navalny is housed in a solitary cell. According to an observatory for Russian penal institutions, he has, among other things, a kettle, a refrigerator and a television there.
Call for mass protests
Navalny called for nationwide mass protests after the court decision on Monday. His allies urged their compatriots to gather in Moscow on Saturday and march to the Kremlin. Demonstrations are currently prohibited in the Russian capital due to the corona restrictions.
Possible arrests did not deter the supporters, said Navalny ally Leonid Volkov of the AFP news agency. “Putin poisoned Navalny and now Navalny is behind bars.” Navalny blames the Kremlin for the poison attack on him and also considers the trials against him to be politically motivated.
Kremlin: Navalny call “worrying”
The Kremlin called the opposition activist’s call to protest “worrying” on Tuesday. This could undoubtedly lead to investigations into whether these are not calls for “illegal actions”, said Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov. However, the government does not fear large demonstrations. Peskov described allegations that Moscow was afraid of Navalny and therefore arbitrarily detained him as “absurd”.
Peskow rejected requests from the West for Navalny’s release. “This is an internal matter and we will not allow anyone to interfere.” The arrest of Nawalny had sparked international outrage. The United States, Germany, France, the UN and the EU demanded that Navalny be released immediately.